Keep Calm and Cook with Your Kids

By Brenna O’Dea

The time has come for your little helpers to do more than just set the table. They have started asking questions about what you are making for dinner each night…they almost seem suspicious. What are the gross green flecks in my tomato sauce, mama? (It’s basil). Why are my pasta noodles so brown? (They’re whole wheat). Let’s solve this mystery by inviting the kids into the kitchen early. Early in the process, when you are plucking those fresh basil leaves of your windowsill plant. And early in life, so we can encourage healthy eating habits before they head off to kindergarten.

Instead of clearing out the kitchen when it’s time to get dinner going, invite them in, spread the joy of cooking. Whether it’s one pot pasta or pizza pie, there are plenty of family friendly recipes out there that make cooking together (and eating together) easier than ever. I’m sure your meal will taste even better knowing that everyone had a helping hand in creating it.

There are so many benefits to introducing cooking to your kids at a young age. One of the most important being the development of a healthy relationship with food and mindful eating. Promoting mindfulness at home leads to a more at ease and focused child outside of the home. I am sure we all now look back on our childhoods as times of joy, fun and hardly anything truly stressful (compared to nowadays when even choosing what to watch on Netflix gives us a headache) but there are plenty of stress triggers even for young children. Making new friends, learning long division, choosing an after school activity…the list goes on. But you can build small moments of mindfulness and relaxation into your evening routine. Even chopping the veggies or stirring the tomato sauce can be a soothing practice for your most petite and pickiest eaters.

Mindfulness and meditation is an important skill for even very young children to learn. Eating and cooking is the perfect opportunity. Kids may be curious about what they are eating and why you are serving it to them. No need to disguise your ingredients under layers of bubbly melty cheese so they will eat it (although who doesn’t love a good gooey grilled cheese). Try talking to them about what each ingredient looks like, feels like, and smells like. Once they spend some time learning about their food, they might just be more willing to take a bite.

Cooking can be a very meditative practice and many chefs practice daily meditation as a way to distress and unwind from long tiring days in the kitchen. The next time you are in a rush to get dinner ready, slow down for just a moment, and invite the kids to join in. Even just washing the strawberries or husking the corn can be a fun and new activity and memory. They will look back on summer nights with less memories of favorite TV shows and video games, and more memories of delicious dinners and fun facts about their new favorite fruits. So sit back, relax, and get cooking! There are so many ways and recipes to get the whole family mixing and munching together. Just grab your ingredients and your littlest loved ones and dive right in.

(Image by flickr member yoshiyasu nichikawa licensed under Creative Commons)

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